Freebie Mondays: Any Day of the Week

Freebie Mondays: Any Day of the Week

When I asked my Facebook group which character they’d like to hear more about, they almost unanimously chose Rose.

After my Seven Deadly Domerins series, I played around with the idea of another series of Heavenly Virtues prompts. I only ever did one in the past, and they’re an interesting group of traits to consider. But I write a lot about Domerin (as you may have noticed) so I wanted to dedicate the project to someone else. At first, I wasn’t sure if I had enough available Roses to make it work. No one has quite as many incarnations as Domerin. But after considerable thought, I managed to find just enough.

The first Heavenly Rose featured the virtue of chastity. The next one tackled humility. Next came patience, followed by temperance, kindness and diligence.

The final stop on our journey is charity, which is defined as: generous actions or donations to aid the poor, ill, or helpless; something given to a person or persons in need. Again, I’m not sure if I really nailed the virtue in this one ^^;; But I do like how the scene turned out! This one features Skygate Rose, who is a telepathic therapist.
. . .

It was something of a shock when Rose de Castillo’s phone rang. People usually preferred to contact her via text or email. Probably because it was much harder for a telepath to read the hidden meaning behind written words. Even if distance put the other participant in a phone call beyond her range, plenty of emotional cues were transmitted verbally. Cues she had long since grown accustom to reading, especially when she couldn’t rely on telepathy to give her a better sense of a situation.

She was even more surprised when she checked the caller ID and found the name listed as Sesha Laitos, a man she could easily reach if she extended her extrasensory range three floors down and two hallways over. Though that would be cheating. She had long since learned it was difficult to develop close relationships with people if they thought you were constantly spying on their thoughts in order to provide solutions to problems they hadn’t fully realized yet.

She didn’t exactly wonder why Sesha was calling. They had been around each other enough to grow comfortable. She wasn’t sure Domerin’s partner would consider her a friend, but she didn’t think they were far from the mark. What surprised her was that he’d decided to call instead of simply making the short trek to her door if he wanted to talk. In this case, a phone call indicated one of two things: urgency or a desire for personal distance. Both sent little tingles of alarm along her neck.

With a flick of her fingers, she accepted the call and pressed her phone to her ear. “Good afternoon, Sesha,” she said, dispensing with small talk – these military types weren’t exactly fond of small talk. And even if Sesha didn’t fit the typical profile, he was dating one, which meant he had probably developed a healthy habit of moving straight to the point. “What can I help you with today?”

The breathy chuckle on the other end of the line indicated that at least one of her hunches had been correct. “I’m terribly sorry if I’m bothering you-“

“You aren’t, dear. I wouldn’t have answered otherwise. Though I’m surprised you called. You know my door is always open, yes?”

“Yes, of course.” Another soft grunt of laughter followed, stronger than the last, a clear indication of relaxation. “But I’m afraid this isn’t a social call. I.. wondered if you might do me a favor, perhaps?”

“If it’s within my power, certainly,” Rose replied, trying to infuse her voice with reassurance. There was a hint of tension beneath Sesha’s voice even as his tone relaxed that set her on edge. Had something gone wrong?

This time, the answering breath was a sigh of relief. “It’s Robin,” he admitted, cutting straight to the heart of the issue – a habit he had no doubt picked up from Domerin. “She won’t come out of her room. I think something happened, but she won’t talk to me. I know this is sometimes the way of things with teenagers, but it seems unlike her.”

Rose bit her bottom lip as her eyes trailed toward the calendar she kept on the wall between the living room and kitchen. It was partially obscured from this angle, but she didn’t really need to see it. Since she had awakened from her coma, she kept track of the date with almost neurotic accuracy. Her almost encyclopedic knowledge of recent events might not be healthy, but it provided a level of security she wasn’t yet willing to abandon.

It also allowed her to calculate that Domerin Lorcasf had been absent from the Skygate Institute for eighteen consecutive days. Two days short of the three week mark. An absolute eternity for a fourteen year old girl who was still in the early stages of developing a relationship with her long-absent father. A man who just so happened to be her only tentative link to a new and terrifying world that involved guns and superpowers.

This is also the reason why people prefer to talk to you in text.

“No idea when Domerin will be back yet?” She pitched her voice to make it a question, though she didn’t really need an answer. If Sesha knew when Domerin would be back from Europe, he wouldn’t be calling her.

“None.” Rose could hear the man’s shoulders drooping along with the sharp release of his breath. “And I can’t keep telling her it will be soon. I’m pretty sure she stopped believing me sometime last week. Still, if it was just about him, I don’t think she would have locked herself in her room to mope.”

“No, that doesn’t sound like her,” Rose agreed, rolling her tongue across the backs of her teeth while she contemplated the situation. Domerin’s absence probably was related to Robin’s foul mood; she probably would have been willing to talk to him if he had been here. But if something had happened, it would be unwise to leave the matter unaddressed until he returned. Given the nature of his work, he could pop up sometime tomorrow. Or it could be another two weeks before anyone heard from him. And if they were particularly unlucky, they’d get a call from some hospital or another, which would only make matters worse.

“Give me five minutes,” she said after a brief pause. “I’m assuming you won’t mind if I come down?”

“Please do,” Sesha replied, relief washing the last hint of strain from his voice. “The door’s open.”

“I’ll be right down.”

*   *   *

The quarters Domerin and Sesha shared with Robin were shockingly well decorated. The walls had been painted in gentle neutrals, mostly soft browns with a few hints of grey. Earth tones adorned most of the furniture – creams, tans and a few hints of mahogany. House plants flourished in the open spaces between rooms and beneath windowsills, and a few tasteful paintings adorned the walls.

Domerin must not have had a hand in any of it. If he had decorated the room, the walls would be stark white, the furniture would be drab brown, and there wouldn’t be a hint of decoration to be found. Not to mention he had a black thumb when it came to plants. He had even managed to kill a succulent once, and they were as hardy as plants came.

But Rose was keenly aware she hadn’t come to bask in the bright, open spaces of the apartment. She was here to coax an aching teenager from whatever darkness had claimed her, and she just so happened to be an expert as far as these situations were concerned. She rapped gently on the door that Sesha indicated led to Robin’s room and waited two full minutes before she repeated the action.

Her ears were keen enough to catch the soft sigh that issued from Robin’s mouth when she realized the knocking was bound to continue until someone answered. “I told you already,” the teenager huffed, “I’m not hungry.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, dear,” Rose replied in her most friendly tone of voice. “I hear Sesha’s cooking is fantastic. But I wondered if we might be able to chat for a few minutes? I just happened to be passing through and realized I hadn’t spoken to you in awhile.”

It was a lie, but the kind that could certainly be excused. If she admitted Sesha had summoned her down here – despite the fact that Robin already suspected as much – she’d refuse to say two words on the topic of what might be bothering her. Instead, a soft gasp issued from the room, followed by a series of shuffling footsteps. The door to the bedroom creaked open, revealing shadows cast by thin strips of light escaping beneath drawn curtains. Hard to believe anyone could stand to lurk in shadow on such a brilliantly beautiful day. But Rose had been a teenager herself once, and wasn’t so far removed from the experience that she couldn’t remember the occasional desire for dark silence.

“Doctor de Castillo?” Robin arched an eyebrow in question, her voice high-pitched with surprise. “I didn’t think I had an appointment today.”

“You don’t, sweetheart, don’t worry. I just wanted to come and say hello. I know Domerin has been away for awhile and I know that must be difficult. And please, call me Rose. This isn’t any kind of official business.”

From the way the girl hung her head, causing her dark hair to sweep like a veil in front of her face, Rose could tell this situation had at least a little to do with her father’s absence. It didn’t take more than a surface brush of her mind to tell that she was anxious, worried the next time the phone rang it would be bad news from halfway around the world. She was terrified her father would die in the middle of nowhere with no one to hold his hand and she wouldn’t be able to do anything after the fact.

There was no point in telling her that Domerin Lorcasf was made of stern stuff. She knew as much. She’d been around him long enough to learn what kind of man he was, and how selflessly he devoted himself to his work, no matter how dangerous. When the day did come to say goodbye, she wouldn’t need anyone to tell her that he had died doing something special or important. She had spent the last several hours reminding herself of that all her own, as if it would make it easier to deal with the separation.

Rose reached out and laid a light hand on the girl’s shoulder, squeezing gently. She wished she could convey the twisting of her heart with that gesture, could find a way that wasn’t horribly intrusive to let the girl know that she understood exactly what she was dealing with. But the squeeze was enough to drain some of the tension from Robin’s shoulders, and Rose thought it was a good first step.

“Sorry, Miss Rose. It… It’s been a rough week.”

“I can imagine. Mind if I come in?” Rose motioned toward the darkened room beyond the doorway. “We could talk about it, if you like.”

Like Sesha, Rose sensed there was something Robin didn’t really want to talk about. But unlike Sesha, her telepathic senses revealed that Robin actually did want to talk, if only to distract herself from this terrible thing that seemed to weigh on her shoulders.

Something other than the fact that she hadn’t heard from her father in almost three weeks.

With practiced ease, Rose gave the girl a gentle nudge toward the acceptance of comfort. It wasn’t cheating if she was doing her job. And helping young people work through their problems was her job, even if this wasn’t an official visit.

Robin sighed, nodded slowly and stepped back, allowing Rose to push the door the rest of the way open on her own. A minute later, they had settled on the edge of Robin’s bed, shrouded by the cool darkness of her room. The silence was shockingly comfortable and Rose allowed it to stretch until Robin decided she was ready to speak.

It may have been some awkwardness in the length of the silence that finally goaded her to comment, or it may have been that she relaxed enough to open up. Either way, when she drew a deep breath, Rose was ready.

“I do kind of wish I could talk to Domerin.” It wasn’t much as far as admissions went, but it was a start.

“I’m sure you do. The two of you seem to have grown quite close in the past few months.”

Rose’s comment drew a smile to Robin’s lips, though it pained her to note the expression was laced with pain.

“He’s a good guy,” Robin replied, curling her knees against her chest and hugging them with both arms. “And a good dad, even if he doesn’t think so. I spent so much time feeling like I didn’t belong anywhere… it’s nice to know that I’ll always belong with him, you know?”

“I do,” Rose replied softly. “I felt the same way when I met him and Gregory and all the others. Though I suppose in this case it has as much to do with family ties as it does with knowing other people who have strange abilities.” Rose allowed a thin smile to grace her lips and warmed when Robin returned it with a smile of her own.

“That’s kind of what I want to talk to him about,” Robin admitted, and Rose sensed they were on the edge of a major revelation. “My abilities, I mean. He’s kind of the only one who understands.”

Rose resisted the urge to refute the idea that she couldn’t understand Robin’s fears. Her abilities had been terribly destructive in their own way when she had been young, but most of the ill had effected Rose herself. There had been headaches and an odd sense of madness as she constantly responded to voices no one else could hear. She had grown  used to people avoiding her because she could answer questions they hadn’t actually spoken or detect a lie whenever someone dared to utter one.

But Robin dealt with  trouble of an entirely different sort. Her abilities affected the people and objects surrounding her, whether she wanted them to or not. People may have labeled Rose as crazy, but they labeled Robin as dangerous. Crazy could be harmless. Crazy could be ignored. But dangerous? Dangerous needed to be monitored. Dangerous needed to be contained.

“Did something happen?” Rose asked softly, her voice barely more than a whisper.

She was sure that Sesha must have asked this same question dozens of times and always received the same response; a shake of the head. She could sense Robin gathering tension into her muscles, preparing to make the same gesture. But she stopped short of it, squeezing her knees closer to her chest instead. Her nod, when it came, was slight. Had Rose not been looking for it, she would have missed it.

Drawing a deep breath, Rose folded her legs crossways beneath her and shifted so that she was looking directly at Robin. “I know I’m not Domerin. I know I can’t understand your abilities the way he does, since I don’t share them, not even a little. But, I think you know how good a listener I am. If you want to tell me what happened, I promise I won’t tell anyone else. Same rules apply here as in my office.” Rose made a gesture like zippering her lips, locking the edges and then throwing away a key.

Usually Robin laughed when she did that. Today, the girl just looked scared. She spent several seconds rocking back and forth. Rose allowed her the time and space she needed to decide on her next course of action; she was very like her father in this regard. She wouldn’t say anything until she was good and ready. And trying to coax words from her too soon would be like throwing herself against a brick wall.

“I can’t control it,” Robin said at last, her voice a broken whisper. “I keep breaking things and I can’t stop.”

“What kind of things?” Rose asked, her tone conversational.

“Books, mostly,” Robin admitted. “School books. Domerin replaces them but… Well, it doesn’t stop people from being angry. I don’t know how I’m supposed to get control if I can’t practice, though.”

“A fair point,” Rose replied. “Theory is one thing, but we all need practice to get our powers under control.”

This reassurance seemed to bolster the teenager. She sat up a little straighter and raised her voice. “I didn’t mean to kill an entire patch of garden. I was just trying to touch one flower. But that thing happened again, where it feels like I just lose touch with time. I blinked and everything was brown and the ground was all broken…” She shook her head.

“I’m sorry that happened, Robin.” Rose laid a hand on the girl’s knee. She didn’t worry too much about making skin to skin contact; Robin always wore long sleeves and long pants and would never have allowed one of her outfits to develop a tear. On top of that, she wore thick wool socks and a pair of black leather gloves. But Rose desperately wished she had the ability to give the girl skin to skin contact, it offered a level of comfort words never could.

No wonder she wanted Domerin to come home so badly. His was the only hand she could actually hold.

“All I can tell you is that you will be able to control your powers someday. It will take a lot of practice to get a feel for the ins and outs of how your abilities work. But once you figure it out, you’ll never accidentally kill a flower or wither a book again. And in the mean time, they’re just flowers and books, aren’t they? Nothing that can’t be replaced.”

“I suppose,” Robin replied, but she pouted, a clear indication this wasn’t actually the reassurance she was looking for.

Rose pursed her lips. She hadn’t gotten to the real heart of the matter yet. Did it have more to do with Domerin?

After a moment of hesitation, Rose made the decision to delve just a tiny bit deeper, below Robin’s surface thoughts, which swam with confusion and anxiety, to the place where she might be trying to hide the real truth of her agony. People were rarely willing to be forthright about the things bothering them. They poked at them from side angles, hoping others would guess the subtext and spare them the need of speaking directly. It was Rose’s job to do that and, with the help of a little mind reading, she was very good at it. But she was careful not to go too far, not to dig up something private that Robin wouldn’t want to share.

It turned out that Domerin was at the heart of the matter. But not his absence.

“You don’t like that some people use their powers without difficulty, do you?” Rose asked the question with great care. She couldn’t simply call out Robin’s inner most thoughts. She had to let the girl wind her way to them. But she needed to strike close enough to open the path.

Robin’s face twisted. For a moment, she looked angry, as if she were about to unleash a tirade. It would have been fitting; she probably had her father’s temper in there somewhere. But then she drew a deep breath and mastered her emotions, exhaling them instead of exploding. Her face became a mask of agony and she shook her head.

“It’s not that it bothers me when people like you use their abilities. I can’t claim I’m not jealous, but it is nice to know people like me can do good things without getting in trouble for it. It’s more… It’s the expectation.” She stressed the last word with obvious frustration.

“The expectation that you’ll use your abilities someday?”

Robin nodded and Rose knew they were close. “What if I don’t want to use my abilities? What if I don’t want to do anything more than suppress them so I can live a normal life and forget about all the trouble my powers cause?”

“I suppose you’d have a right to do that,” Rose replied, her tone amiable. Now was not the time to tell the girl that she shouldn’t choose to ignore a part of herself. She wanted to feel normal, not special. “And if you make that choice when you have the ability to control your powers, no one will really have a right to argue with you. What you do with your powers is your choice in the same way that the career you want to have when you grow up is your choice.”

“But is it really?” Robin demanded, almost growling the words. “Domerin didn’t get to choose. His father sent him to the military and now the military won’t let him go. Even Sesha ended up doing the same kind of work instead of what he really wanted to be. It’s almost like there’s only one thing people like us can do. People expect us to be heroes, like we’re characters in a comic book or something. And they won’t take no for an answer.”

They had arrived. Domerin must have given Robin just enough of his history that she had drawn these – only slightly – erroneous conclusions. And now that he was gone, possibly injured or in dire danger, she needed someone to blame for the convoluted mix of frustrations she couldn’t properly express or expel. Much as Rose wished she could give the girl an outlet, the best she could do was try to diffuse the situation, at least until Domerin could get back home to talk to her.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Rose asked softly, carefully sidestepping the heart of the matter for a moment. “Or what did you want to be, before you found out about your abilities?”

“A veterinarian,” Robin answered without hesitation, the word accompanied by a shuddering breath. “I wanted to take care of horses.”

Past tense, Rose noted with some sorrow. “And now you think you can’t do that anymore?”

“How could I ever?” Robin retorted, angry frustrated. “I can’t touch anything!”

“Not right now,” Rose agreed, calm in the face of the girl’s upset. “But someday you’ll be able to. And even if you can’t, you could still do the job with care. It’s not unusual for people who work with animals to wear gloves or masks, is it?”

“You still make it sound like I’m going to get a choice,” Robin spat, the words bitter and angry. “I can kill bad guys with a touch of my fingers. You think the military is just going to let me doctor horses my whole life?”

A slow smile crept across Rose’s lips. “Do you think Domerin is going to let anyone force you to do otherwise if that’s what you want?”

That brought Robin up short. If there was one thing this child believed in, it was the strength and determination of her father to protect her from the evils of the world, no matter how bad they got.

But the uncertainty lasted only a moment, and Robin deflated again. “But Domerin thinks that kind of stuff is important too. He talks about it all the time. I think it’s so I won’t be upset while he’s away, but also I think he wants me to follow in his footsteps. Or to want to, even a little bit.”

Rose’s fingers tightened gently around Robin’s knee. “Robin, I can say for certain without even having to ask him that there is no way Domerin wants you to follow in his footsteps. The last thing he wants is for you to set one foot in danger. And besides, there are lots of important things people like us can do that don’t involve guns or killing. Look at what I do.”

“But you can read minds,” Robin protested. “It makes sense that you use your powers to help people!”

“I can move stuff with my mind too,” Rose pointed out. “Which makes me about as well suited to the kind of work Domerin and Sesha do as to what I’m doing now.”

She could tell from the slight widening of Robin’s eyes that she was close to unraveling her knot. She just needed to find the right way to redirect her frustrations. Something productive, something that she wanted for herself.

“I know right now it seems like the only thing you’re ever going to be good at is breaking things. I happen to think you just haven’t discovered the useful portions of your talent yet. But even if that does turn out to be true, there are lots of ways that breaking things can be useful for normal, everyday people. Maybe even for people who work with horses.”

“Yeah?” Robin replied in her most skeptical tone, her voice nearly dripping with disdain. “Like how?”

Rose considered for several long moments before she answered, though she had already prepared several easy responses. “Well,” she said at last, “what if a horse got something stuck in their hooves and it was difficult and painful to remove it? Imagine you could weaken it so that it would crumble right away from the skin. Or if someone needed to knock down an obstacle quickly to get to a stranded animal. You could make it as easy as a flick of your wrist. You might not want to think about this just now, but there might even be a benefit to the fact that you can sap the energy right out of living things. What if an animal was trapped by a bad accident and couldn’t be saved? You could put it out of its mercy, give it an easy death without it having to spend hours suffering in pain while people tried to bring in the right equipment.”

“I… hadn’t thought of that,” Robin admitted, stunned. “It’s true that putting animals down is a regular part of veterinary practice, whether you like it or not. I… I suppose I could make it gentle, if I knew what I was doing.”

“And you could do it outside of an office,” Rose pointed out. “Someplace where the animal was comfortable and surrounded by things and people they love. I know it might seem backwards, but sometimes the things that frighten us most about our abilities turn out to be the most useful in the end. Like, for instance, I used to be terrified of the fact that I could tell what people were thinking before they spoke out loud. But today, it helped me figure out what you’re really scared about.”

It was a bit bigger of an admission than she usually shared when it came to this sort of thing. She had effectively admitted to pulling Robin’s problems out of her head in order to speak about them. But instead of anger, Robin reacted with a genuine smile.

“I’m glad you told me, Miss Rose. Really, I am. I never imagined what you can do would be scary but… I guess anything that’s new is frightening at first, isn’t it?”

“That it is,” Rose agreed, giving the girl’s knee a final pat. “Are you sure you haven’t changed your mind about dinner? I was thinking I might try to get Sesha to feed me before I left and I think he might be more willing to take pity on two hungry mouths.”

Robin chuckled, though she swiped a hand over her eyes at the same time. “Sesha doesn’t need an excuse to feed people. He’s probably been cooking all this time.”

Rose grinned, but sobered after a moment. “Do you really feel better, Robin?”

“Yeah, I do, actually,” Robin insisted as she slid to her feet. “I feel a bit bad that you had to deal with a charity case on your day off-“

“Charity case or not, it was my pleasure to help a friend,” Rose stressed the last word. “And I’d do it any day of the week.”

Robin didn’t answer, but she didn’t have to. Her eyes shone in the dim light and her smile became a grin. “Come on. Let’s go get that dinner. I’m starving!” Her stomach rumbled on her way to the door to prove it.

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